Here’s a dish with deep Yankee roots, but I’ll wager no one has ever tasted its like before. The break with tradition is stuffing the apples with pork sausage and smoke roasting them on the grill.
Step 1: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage and sage, increase the heat to high, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the pork is lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the stuffing to a strainer set over a heatproof bowl to drain off the excess fat, reserving the fat for basting. If you want to assemble the apples ahead of time, let the stuffing cool to room temperature first.
Step 2: Using a melon bailer and starting at the stem end, remove the core from each apple to create a large cavity. Don’t cut all the way through to the bottom. Spoon the stuffing into the apples, dividing it evenly among them and pressing it in firmly. Pour a little of the maple syrup over the stuffing in each apple. Place a small piece of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on top of each apple. Brush the sides of the apples with the reserved sausage fat. The apples can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage; cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Step 3: Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
Step 4: When ready to cook, place the stuffed apples in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the apples until soft, 40 to 60 minutes. Transfer the grilled apples to a platter or plates and serve at once.
The traditional apple of New England is the Mclntosh, but you can use anything here from a Cortland to a Granny Smith.